Personal Notes from Mike
  • We're getting a good fall garden of lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, beets...and still green beans.  But I have much less time here in Mattoon to tend to it. Jie has more time to do the harvesting.  Meanwhile I'm starting to think about planting flower bulbs for next spring.
  • I'll be away in Carbondale two days this week, working with Board of Ministry candidates as they get ready to turn in their work.
  • Contests are starting to heat up in both baseball (the Cubs are in the playoffs) and politics (with the first debate scheduled for tomorrow night.)  I'll be keeping an interested eye on both.  It's too early to tell whether I'll be celebrating all winter...or in misery.
  • You can CLICK HERE to check out the article I have referenced in the essay below.
 


September 25, 2016
I'm Reaching My Peak
For exercise these days I head to the schoolyard across the street and play solitary basketball for about an hour.  I especially like that the basketball courts are hidden from the road and from nearby houses: I am an awful basketball player and it's best that there be no witnesses.  

So why do I choose basketball?  It is an amusing exercise, a whole body workout, a sport in which I can't help but get better, a marvel that arthritic joints can be slowly and gently stretched back to life, and relaxing in that the score doesn't really matter, since I'm only playing against myself.
 
Once in a while some kids will wander into the playground and strike up a conversation with me, conspicuously hoping I'll invite them to play.  They'll even chase the ball for me when I make a bad shot, like when I miss the entire backboard...and the ball rolls all the way out of the playground..and through the parking lot.  When that happens, I have to reciprocate.  So I begrudgingly invite them to play. 

If it is just one kid, we'll play a game of horse.  If two, I take them both on.  If 3 or more, we choose up sides.  I especially like it when the kids aren't any taller than my armpits.  

But before you tell me to pick on someone my own size, consider this:  the average age of an NBA player is 26.  These little nippers are only 15 years or so away from their peak.  I, on the other hand, am 36 years past my basketball prime. So I'll not apologize for enjoying the extra 12 inches of height!
 
This brings me to today's topic:  our peak years.  I got interested in this when I was browsing through an article in the July edition of Tech Insider, a digital magazine that combines science and culture. 

I didn't know, for example, that the peak age for learning a new language is 7. I wasn't surprised, however, especially after trying to learn Greek and Hebrew when I was in seminary and trying to learn Chinese in my late 50s.  

But if I missed the cut off when it comes to learning a new language, I'm just getting into my peak years for wisdom:  it comes sometime between ages 60 and 90.  (Someone at church asked me what peaks occur after 90.  I couldn't think of any.  But does it really matter?  After all, isn't it enough to be closing in on 100? Who needs to be distracted during that decade with other peaks?)

You may wonder what the peak age is for physical flexibility. If you're old enough to read this you've already passed it.
 
The peak age for learning names is 22.  This is also the peak age for female beauty, according to men of all ages.  Females of all ages, on the other hand, report that males look their best when in their late 20s.  I'm confused.  Of course I already knew that men prefer looking at 22 year old women.  What shocked me was the data coming from the women: that they prefer ogling 29 year old men! All these years women have complained that society is prejudicial to men because it sees them growing increasingly attractive as they age. I have been counting on that all these years, satisfied that my most handsome decades are ahead of me.  But this research suggests that once again I've been duped.
 
The peak age to get married is 26.  Couples who get married at this age get divorced the least.  

Chess players peak at 31 and Nobel Prize winners at 40. Our arithmetic skills peak at 50.  And vocabulary reaches its zenith when we are 70.  I guess we go from one kind of smarts to another as we age.
 
If you are looking for sympathy, it appears that you should cry on the shoulders of someone who is about 50.  This is the peak age for understanding the emotions of others.  Folks younger than 50 haven't experienced enough of life yet to be fully empathetic.  And and for those of us older than 50: we're getting really tired and cranky and just don't want to put up with all your bellyaching. 
 
There is this factoid:  we reach our peak height at age 40. After that we just shrink, year after year. This means that in 20 years my torso will be losing altitude and it will be really hard for me to find a kid who's still shorter than my armpits.  

And then this:  psychological well-being peaks at age 82. Fortunately basketball isn't just physical, it's also mental.  I may be the littlest squirt on the basketball court then, but I'll have a vocabulary those other squirts won't be able to imagine.  They'll never catch on to what I'm muttering about them!

And ultimately this:  with God, a thousand years are as a day.  This means that at any age we might enter a mysterious time warp the Bible calls, "Kairos."  And when this happens, the 22-year-old coed has inner peace, and the 82-year-old grandma never looked better, the old guy actually learns to speak Chinese, and the short kid beats the cranky preacher at basketball.  Kairos mercy to all!  

 --Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS